Wednesday, 11 April 2018

The Split Sofa Archaeology Part Three - 'The road ahead had holes we fell into'

Turn To Red got quite busy and it began to pick up even more in the following weeks, things moved very
fast.

In the six months we had been with our agent Gary Wayne, we had lost Phil & added two new members Ben Standley & Phil McBride on Trumpet & Sax. 

It was quite a good move on our part as 'The Commitments' film had been released in October 1991 so people were now discovering the likes of Otis Redding & James Brown.  Soul Music became very popular everywhere.  We were never really a true Soul band because we had the old set, which we had built up after Phil left the band, once we added trumpets to certain songs then the second set would all be Soul.  It worked well and we really went down a storm & with adding the brass it made us stand out a bit.

After a while Gary Wayne contacted Keith Fletcher to tell him he had passed us on to another agent called Lyndsey Barn, who would be coming down to take a look and see where it went from there.  A few days later Lyndsey, who was dressed in a suit with a small ponytail and black briefcase, popped into the practice room and watched us play a song or two.  He picked up on things about eye contact and helped me be less up tight on stage. He made a few comments and we soon were under his wing. Within a couple of weeks a few gigs came in through him.  Lyndsey was a step up from Gary but I never did get to thank him for helping us out and keeping us so busy.....

Lyndsey was quite a strict agent and soon Keith started getting these contracts with what time you had to be there, what you had to wear and what times you had to play.....for example one Saturday despite only getting in at 4am that morning, we had to be on the road again by 3:45pm  or we were going to be late.  We were under contract to be in Peterborough at the venue by 6:30pm.  Then we had a rehearsal the next day on Sunday night.  We used to practice every Sunday night as I didn’t want the band to be stagnant, so every Sunday afternoon I would write down the lyrics to a song I wanted to do and take it to the guys later than day at practice. I wanted to add to the set and brought in the song ‘Heatwave’ using the trumpets playing the riff.   It went down really well and I was pleased to  move away from every song The Commitments played.   We even did ‘Walking On Sunshine’ because it’s got a great brass riff in there.

Throughout February & March of 1993 Lyndsey got us to record a demo in the rehearsal room and we ran through the songs and got them recorded,  He got us over to Sheffield to have a photo session in some studio. Lyndsey had bought with him a suit for me which was bright red. The lads had to put on black jackets with red t shirts, we were all dressed up for him to promote us.  He also got lights for us from another agent friend of his called Noel who lived in Lincoln. 

We planned to return to IND COOPE social club in May and do another night selling tickets. We had now different songs and a different line up. 

I wanted to wear something different so I went along to a shop in Burton and ordered an Italian silk suit in Orange. When it arrived I went over on a thursday night when the shop was quiet he gave me the suit and I went in the back to try it on. I got the jacket on and then my jeans were halfway down so I put my hand out to steady myself and put my hand on the mirror snapping it clean in two!!  I was stuck!!  What do I do? I decided the best thing was to let go and stand still, so I shut my eyes and I let go..... It was the loudest bang ever and I was surrounded by shards of glass.   The mirror was bigger than I had thought.  I stood there in my socks, the  guy ran in he asked if I was OK.   It was all very embarrassing of course but in the end the suit fitted, but it really wasn’t up to stage work. I sweated like a pig!

We made our return to IND COOPE club and with now the trumpet  players in the band we stood out. Again we sold tickets and again they sold well.   The soul set was well received and we really did a good show and felt we were heading some place up the ladder,  the gigs Lyndsey was getting us seemed more up market.

During the middle of 1993 again Lyndsey came through with a gig at RAF base near Peterbough, which was a really posh do and high ranking event.  The contract which stipulated that we must not leave the room without a tie and would be fed by the RAF between sets.

It was amazing to see three blokes in PT gear standing to attention outside the officers clubs with a drill sergeant next to them.  They kindly got the gear out the van for us in record time.  The sergeant then lead us all to a room by the side of the stage with a couple of snooker tables and we were ordered not leave the room without a tie.  We opened the sliding door to the stage and set up our gear.   Stret was the last one to finish setting up but instead of sliding the door back into the band room, it turned upwards like a massive cat flap.   The door on the rails creaked a bit and after that the door jammed a bit.  We all were on the floor as he came through it!

The first set went really well and as I looked out the room was full with high ranking officers in full evening dress,  some of them with medals dancing about.  At one point when I was in the toilet I was slapped on the back by an old guy with a white handlebar moustache. 

“Bloody Good Show, looking forward to hearing part two, have you any more music to bop to?”
“Thanks, yes I’m sure we have a few more to play”  (nervous laugh)
“Rupert what do you think? this combo would be good for the summer ball eh?”
“yes Sir, they would”

We met many characters like this during our time playing for the RAF and with other bands who were booked to do a set . The squaddies used to go hell for leather once they saw a bar but we always went down well and they enjoyed themselves.

Now signed with Lyndsey we were now semi pro. He had bought the goods and word was getting round about us. It seemed Soul was hot and people wanted it.   Lyndsey’s good friend Noel who we had bought all the lights off  also ran an entertainment business called ‘ GreenLight Entertainment agency’  in Lincoln.  He got us booked for a showcase in Grimsby & the next thing we knew we changed the route to Peterborough for the M1.
One of the acts on with us was ‘ The Tornadoes’ with one original member left.  It would have been nice to know how many times this victorian pub with a burnt out car next to the van had heard ‘Telstar’ but just for old times sake we’ll play it just once more. 

We opened with the bang off Jason’s snare and a scream from me and we flew into ‘I Feel Good’ by James Brown. It was ok but I was glad to get out of there as the area was really rough and run down. Stret loved it so much he went back the next day because he had left his suit there!  All the old dears loved it too hough and it sounded not too bad but again the acts were dull.  Later that week Lyndsey sent us a full page review of the event written by the local paper reporter who said the same thing but mentioned us in his article saying that the event only really took off when we were on so we were well pleased with that.

Lyndsey got us a gig in Lowestoft at the Wherry Hotel. We were booked for a private party on the Friday night and he had booked us all in at a bed & breakfast down the road. The following day we spent in Great Yarmouth before heading back to Corby where Lyndsey had booked at a night club.  The club was full of Hen party girls who kept shouting up to us “Get Yer Cocks Out!” The club was really rough with broken bottles all round the outside & at the end of the night there was a punch up outside in front of a ring of taxis which ran around the club.  There was a sense of something was going to happen as the vibe was off all night.   Although the highlight for me was when going to the toilets between sets, a Glaswegian girl grabbed my arm and asked;

“Hey Yooooo, Where’s that wee guitar player in yee band? I want his Baby!”

After getting back to the dressing room she stood waiting outside the door & I shouted:

“Hey Joe, There’s a wee lass outside for you saying she wants a baby with you”

Laughter filled the dressing room but Joe wouldn’t go out



“I ain’t going out there” he kept saying, how we howled at that one!!!